It is commonly thought and mistakenly believed that amino acid intake may be insufficient in vegetarian and vegan diets. Scientific research has shown that the proportions of the amino acids consumed by vegetarians and vegans are usually more than adequate to meet and exceed an individual’s daily protein requirements, as long as a variety of foods are consumed and energy requirements are met.

Vegetable protein, which is what?

Plant-based proteins, combined to provide all the essential amino acids, make an excellent source of protein while reducing your consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol. Popular sources include legumes, nuts, and soybeans. In addition to these products, plant protein also comes in a fibrous form called textured vegetable protein (TVP). Plant-based protein sources provide many other nutrients and fiber that are also highly valued in the diet.

Protein sources in plants
Among vegetable proteins, proteins from cereal products, such as e.g. barley, oats, corn, pasta, rice, bulgur, and all dry legume proteins, including soybeans, lentils, beans, peas, or walnut, peanut, cashew and sesame proteins. On the other hand, vegetables are a much poorer source of protein.

Protein sources in a vegan and vegetarian diet

The most commonly used replacement for animal protein in the world is soy. Its seeds contain about 40% of protein, in which all the essential amino acids are present in significant amounts. Soybeans have a moderate total fat content and a low content of saturated fatty acids.

It is also a good source of unsaturated fatty acids, sterols, lecithin and vitamin E, as well as nutrients deficient in vegetarian diets such as folic acid, calcium, iron and zinc. It also contains ingredients with an antioxidant effect – β-carotene, vitamin C, selenium, phenolic acids and flavonoids.

It is made from soy flour from which proteins are isolated. TVP is mainly a meat alternative and serves as the meat equivalent in vegetarian hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken patties etc. It is also a low-calorie and low-fat source of vegetable protein.

It is a traditional Indonesian product in which soybeans are bound together by white mycelium hyphae. It is produced from fermented soybeans and possibly other legumes. Tempeh contains about 20% protein (40-50% dry weight) and about 11% fat, with the predominant unsaturated acids. It is a good source of fiber, it contains B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and iron, and active ingredients typical of soy – isoflavonoids and saponins.

Tofu, popularly known as soy curd, contains about 8% protein, and is the primary source of dietary protein in Asian countries. It also contains fat, mainly unsaturated fatty acids, and calcium. Tofu is made from the curd of soy milk, which is formed by introducing a coagulant in the form of calcium chloride, calcium sulfate or gluconolactonic acid into heated milk. Depending on the consistency, there are tofu extra hard, hard, normal, soft or pressed, silk or packaged.

Lentil seeds are characterized by a very good composition. They contain over 20% proteins with high biological value with a large share of exogenous amino acids, especially arginine, leucine, lysine, valine, and phenylalanine.

The seeds are rich in carbohydrates, from 48 to 55%, in addition, they contain 1 to 2% fat, 1 to 3% sugar, 4 to 11% fiber, and 3.5 to 4% minerals. The ash compounds are primarily: phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, sodium, iodine, selenium, B vitamins, vitamins A, C, E and PP.

It should be mentioned that among the legumes, lentils have the highest amount of iron in seeds, and in this respect, it is higher than soybeans. Seeds, sprouts and lentil flour are high-protein human food of high biological value. In addition, seeds and sprouts are a source of phytoestrogens, folic acid, vitamins E and C, and microelements.

It is one of the popular legumes in Poland. The climatic conditions of our country are favourable for its cultivation. Peas, like lentils and other legumes, can often be used interchangeably with all kinds of dishes.

According to the sources, chickpeas are a treasury of many important ingredients. Boiled without salt, chickpeas weighing 100 g provide about 164 kcal and contain: 60% water, 8.86% protein, only 2.59% fats, 27.42% carbohydrates, of which 4.8% sugars, and as much as 7.6% % fiber. Due to its low calorie and fat content and high water content, it is a good dietary product. In addition, the presence of protein is valuable for its essential role in all biological processes in the body. These proteins are the source of many essential amino acids.

Hummus is a Middle Eastern dish that has become popular all over the world. The term comes from Arabic and literally means “chickpeas”. This is a very apt name, considering that it is a paste made of cooked and grated chickpeas or other legumes, such as broad beans.

Most often used as a dip for cold snacks or warm to spread on pita bread. However, chickpea paste alone is not enough to create tasty hummus. For this reason, crushed garlic, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil and lemon juice are added. Spices also add flavour – parsley and Roman cumin. Everything should be thoroughly rubbed and mixed to obtain a pasty consistency.

Both baker’s and brewer’s yeast have been available as dietary supplements in recent decades due to the high content of B vitamins, proteins, amino acids and minerals – zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, and chromium.

Yeast is a source of easily digestible protein. They are made of 40% proteinogenic amino acids, peptides and proteins. Among the B vitamins that are involved in the transformation of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, yeast contains vitamin H (biotin, also known as vitamin B7), which restores the hair’s elasticity and also inhibits greying and hair loss.

Protein supplementation in vegan and vegetarian diets

Protein consumption from vegetarian diets is sufficient, except for the possible part of vegetarians who do not consume enough energy or for some reason habitually avoid protein-rich plant sources such as legumes, nuts and seeds, or protein-rich analogues. For such people, there are supplements on the market that contain single sources of plant protein or mixtures of different proteins. The mixture of amino acids from different types of proteins allows the human body to meet the needs of the necessary amino acids.

The claim that certain plant foods “lack” certain amino acids is clearly false. All plant foods contain all 20 amino acids, including the 8 essential amino acids.

Vegetable protein for athletes

Vegan athletes are able to meet their daily protein requirements mainly or exclusively from plant-based foods if they consume a variety of protein-rich plant foods every day and get enough calories from their diet.

To achieve this, you should consume various sources of vegetable protein, such as nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, soy products, and grains (oats, pasta, rice). It is important to include about 20 g of protein in the post-workout meal. Scientific research has shown that it is the optimal amount of protein to stimulate the growth and regeneration of muscles.

It should be remembered that individual plant products do not contain all the necessary amino acids in the right proportions, but when we combine these types of products, some deficiencies in one will be satisfied by the larger amounts in the other.

Therefore, a good solution for vegan and vegetarian athletes will be supplementation with a mixture of various plant proteins that will cover the protein requirements in one meal after training.


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